June 12, 2005

'Downing Street Memo,' meet 'Cabinet Office Briefing Paper.'

The UK Sunday Times has obtained another UK government document that undercuts the 'official reasons' for the invasion of Iraq. The briefing paper for members of PM Tony Blair's cabinet is dated July 21, 2003, two days before the cabinet meeting recorded in the 'Downing Street memo.'

According to briefing paper, it was going to be necessary for the UK government to help 'create the conditions' that would give provide a legal veneer for the otherwise illegal act of invading a country and overthrowing its goverment.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.

“US plans assume, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia,” the briefing paper warned. This meant that issues of legality “would arise virtually whatever option ministers choose with regard to UK participation”.

The paper was circulated to those present at the meeting, among whom were Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The full minutes of the meeting were published last month in The Sunday Times.

The document said the only way the allies could justify military action was to place Saddam Hussein in a position where he ignored or rejected a United Nations ultimatum ordering him to co-operate with the weapons inspectors. But it warned this would be difficult.

“It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject,” the document says. But if he accepted it and did not attack the allies, they would be “most unlikely” to obtain the legal justification they needed.

The suggestions that the allies use the UN to justify war contradicts claims by Blair and Bush, repeated during their Washington summit last week, that they turned to the UN in order to avoid having to go to war.

Hopefully the revelation of this additional document will give some more spine to the US press, which has generally done a poor job of reporting on the 'Downing Street memo.'

The Times has posted the almost complete text of the briefing paper here. [The final page was missing from the copy that the newspaper obtained.]

Posted by Magpie at June 12, 2005 12:01 AM | Iraq | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |